Malta’s Coalition on Human Trafficking and Prostitution Reform has called on minister Owen Bonnici to "reflect" on the government’s position on the full decriminalisation of prostitution and "sex buying".

In a statement, issued after it was announced that Bonnici would take over from Rosianne Cutajar after the Labour MP's relegation to the backbench was confirmed on Monday, the coalition said the government's position was "ill-informed of the human, societal and economic costs of the proposal to legalise sex-buying".

"It fails to acknowledge, much less address, the many perverse and damaging consequences that this course inevitably steers us towards.

The proposal for example, fails to acknowledge the inextricable link between legalised prostitution and human trafficking, the coalition said, and asked: "Local johns aside, even if only 10 per cent of our 2.5 million tourists came for sex, where would the women and girls come from to service them?"

"As most Maltese women and girls will not, thousands upon thousands of women and girls will be trafficked to meet the demand," the coalition said in its statement. 

The current proposal is replete with dysfunction and dystopian realities, it said.

For example, the coalition said, maintaining the prohibition against brothels begs the question: where will prostitutes loiter and solicit (both of which will be legal)?

"Presumably, as in other countries, it will happen outside our homes, schools,
hotels, restaurants and bars. And where will they have sex? In hotel rooms and apartments across the islands? How will we protect women and girls from being exposed and drawn into this glitterstudded trade of abuse and exploitation?

"And, how can we possibly hope to protect our reputation as a safe and culturally rich destination for tourists and students? We cannot afford to slip further beneath international standards. With our FATF grey listing, we must also improve our capacity to investigate and prosecute money laundering and tax evasion," it said. 

According to the coalition, the global sex trade is worth around €1 billion annually.

"We urge Bonnici to work on a reform that translates into a law that does not criminalise victims of the sex industry but removes the exploitative and abusive power and control of johns, pimps and traffickers whilst ensuring that trafficking does not expand. To do so, we also urge Bonnici to revisit the constitution of his Technical Committee, appointing the range and depth of expertise required to provide the comprehensive advice required to produce a law that will protect our people, society, economy and reputation."

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